Zachary Becker spent his first morning at the Art Fair squatting on the curb outside the NSIC grounds where the fair is being held. Unlike the others there, he wasn’t waiting in line to get in, or for a friend with a VIP card to show him the way, he wasn’t assisting parking or guiding art enthusiasts on where to go and what to see inside the fair. In fact, if I hadn’t been delayed getting to the corner where I was to meet a friend, I probably wouldn’t have run into Zachary. But as luck would have it, I was late, my flatmate had been waiting for 20 minutes on the street for me to arrive. When I did, she informed me over the phone that I’d find her on the left side of the entrance, squatting with a stranger she’d met.
That’s where I met Zachary. He looked fairly comfortable squatting on the ground with a small sheet of tarpaulin stretched beside him. He seemed like a figure out of Pablo Bartholomew’s “Shit seller” except Zachary was white and he wasn’t selling fake turd. He was selling tiffin boxes and two semi-circular discs glazed in what he referred to as “red powder pigment”.
A few minutes before I arrived, he’d apparently got into an argument with one of the crew of the art fair. “Which gallery are you from?” is what he was asked. “I’m not with any gallery!” he had answered. “Then you can’t sit here,” he was told. The 23-year-old American had refused to budge.
Zachary, a US Citizen, had first come toIndiain 2009 to work on an art project at Tihar Jail. He has no academic background in visual art, in fact, he graduated from a Music Conservatory in theMidwest. He plays the trumpet.
His first show inIndiawas at the American Centre where he worked with recyclable packaging material that he’d bought from a dealer when he found out it had been imported fromAmerica. He used the material to create enormous flags of America, India and Pakistan. The Pakistani flag was censored at the show.
“So where can one buy your work?” I asked him?
“Here,” he said.
“What have you got?” I asked.
“Oh, some Subodh Gupta and Anish Kapoor fakes.”
“How much are you selling them for?”
“The small tiffin is for Rs 100, the medium-sized one for Rs 200, the larger one for Rs 250. But I’m willing to negotiate and bargain. I think it will be big money in the art world soon,” he said.
I left him to his business after he posed for my camera. When I entered the venue, we spotted the same large man, the crew member who had earlier interrogated Zachary. He did not look happy.